The House voted overnight to send a stopgap spending bill back to the Senate… (Olivier Douliery / MCT )
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers appeared no closer to a deal to avert a government shutdown after midnight action in the House to delay President Obama's healthcare law, with both parties trading accusations Sunday about who would be to blame for an impasse.
Neither the House nor Senate planned to meet Sunday, with fewer than 36 hours left to approve a new stopgap spending measure. Instead, members of Congress fanned out to the TV networks' Sunday news shows to react to mostly party-line votes the House took overnight to again send the spending bill back to the Senate with provisions to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Republicans have insisted that such provisions be part of any deal to keep federal agencies open once the new budget year begins Tuesday.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has assumed a lead role among conservatives in pursuing the “defund or delay” strategy, repeatedly argued Sunday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) now stands in the way of a resolution.
Cruz accused Reid of using "brute political force" to resist any changes in the healthcare law, which Cruz described as the "biggest job-killer in this country."
"So far Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially told the House of Representatives and the American people, 'Go jump in a lake,' " Cruz said on NBC's "Meet The Press."
"If we have a shutdown, it will only be because when the Senate comes back, Harry Reid says, 'I refuse even to talk.' "
Reid on Saturday called the Republicans' latest offer — a one-year delay of the healthcare law and a repeal of a tax that helps pay for it — “pointless." He vowed the Democratic-led Senate would hold firm against new amendments. The White House has also threatened to veto any changes in the law. A key part of the new healthcare law — online marketplaces that will allow consumers who lack insurance to buy coverage — begins to roll out Tuesday.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, said on CBS' "Face The Nation" that Democrats are open to considering changes to the health law but "not with a gun to my head." Durbin supports repeal of the tax that Republicans have targeted — a levy on medical devices — but noted that the plan passed by the House would add to the deficit.
"Let's sit down in a bipartisan and calm way, not with the prospect of shutting down the government or shutting down the economy," he said.
House Republican leaders mocked the Senate for staying out of session Sunday.
"We were there almost until midnight last night working on the bill, passing the bill, got even some Democrat support in the House, and yet the Senate won't even come back today. They're the ones playing games," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Republican Conference, told CNN's "State of the Union."
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) called for Obama to engage in the debate, asking why he would "talk to the president of Iran" but "won't sit here and talk to the representatives of the American people."
McCarthy also suggested the House stood ready to pass further changes to the health law if the Senate were to act again Monday to dismiss their new proposals. Democratic aides have said the Senate will probably move quickly to table the latest House amendments when it reconvenes Monday afternoon.
In a statement Sunday, House Speaker John A. Boehner said the Senate's delaying any action until Monday "would be an act of breathtaking arrogance by the Senate Democratic leadership."
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cruz's lead partner in the "Defund Obamacare" campaign, said on "Fox News Sunday" he would probably support the House's new amendments. Cruz would not say if he would use any procedural tactics to delay Senate action Monday as he did last week.